Having added an impact lefty reliever in Aroldis Chapman via trade, another solid lefty in Mike Montgomery via trade, and a reclamation arm in Joe Nathan, you could argue that the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen has done a 180 in the last week, especially when you consider how good Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm have looked.
In that way, then, you might assume that the acquisition of Chapman caps off the Cubs’ moves for the trade season, being that the bullpen was clearly the biggest need on the roster.
But, then, would you ever really presume that this front office was “done” exploring opportunities to improve the roster? Come on now.
“We’re going to take a step back tonight,” Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN) after the Chapman trade was announced yesterday. “We’ve been wrapped up in this for several days. There’s still a good amount of time before the trade deadline, so we’re going to engage with every other team and see if there’s an opportunity to get better. Either tweaks to the roster now, but I’d say it’s more focused on getting additional depth for this season and possibly making a move that makes sense for our longer-term picture, next season and beyond.”
Additional depth, and longer-term pieces. That’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect the Cubs to be looking for at this point, if anything, given the strength of the current roster and admitted questions for 2017 and beyond.
Those questions, by the way, are almost exclusively tied to the rotation, where the Cubs may well be set for 2016 (assuming everyone stays healthy), but where the organization’s lack of big league ready starting pitching in the upper minors is a concern for next season and beyond. To the extent the Cubs could add a younger, under-control starting pitcher before Monday’s deadline, that would undoubtedly be an extremely welcome addition, even if it crowded the rotation right now. It’s more likely, though, that this kind of trade will be coming in the offseason.
The “additional depth” part, however, is something every good team should be exploring right up until the deadline passes (and then further into the waiver trade period in August).
For the Cubs, it’s not easy to see where the depth needs are. Another starting option at AAA would be nice, but Trevor Cahill is already stretching out down there, and Brian Matusz has been pitching very well after the Cubs picked him up. The big league bench is solid, in my view, and could get even more solid with the returns of Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan, each of whom is rehabbing at AA Tennessee right now.
One rumor we keep hearing about, though, is the Cubs’ possible pursuit of a lefty outfield bat, which is not necessarily a “depth” move, but could have the same effect by pushing other guys back. For example, we’ve seen multiple reports connecting the Cubs to A’s outfielder Josh Reddick, about whom I recently wrote this best-as-I-can-explain-it kind of thing:
That’s not to say the Cubs wouldn’t do it, of course. Having more veteran depth on the roster could help soften the late-season and playoff reliance on young players. It also keeps everyone better rested ….
[M]aybe the fit isn’t as tricky as I think. First of all, depth for miles is not a bad thing on a playoff contender. And Reddick now sports the kind of extreme platoon split that makes you wonder if it wouldn’t actually be that tricky to accommodate him (he starts against all righties, the other gents work in against all lefties, and you otherwise rotate frequently to keep everyone fresh).
Heck, there was a time when the Cubs were planning on having a big lefty bat in left field, and figuring out the details later.
Another recent report connects the Cubs to Reddick, by the way:
I believe Josh Reddick is at the top of the Cubs list if they add another bat. We'll see.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) July 26, 2016
Maybe there’s something there.
For now, we know that the Cubs will keep exploring opportunities, and we’ll keep following right up until that deadline next week.